The mass protests and occupations of public squares in Spain have mobilized millions of angry discontented people yet the right has won in the elections. Pablo Pablo Fernández looks at Spain’s contradictory rebellion.

On May 15th a series of protests began, led by activists using social networking sites: twitter and facebook etc. These social activists were able to do what the Spanish political left has been unable to do: mobilize millions of angry discontented people. The unemployed, workers who may lose their jobs, pensioners and all those who have built up years of frustration and rage have finally found a voice by joining the protesters who have occupied and camped out in all the main city squares of Spain. Spanish nationals living abroad have have embraced the movement and demonstrations.

The result has been inspiring, giving people the courage and strength to continue with the illegal mobilisations. The “objective conditions” of a new social rebellion led by the young clashes with extremely weak “subjective conditions.”

For many years the leftist parties in Spain, without exception, has failed to offer a credible alternative to neoliberalism. When the left obtained good election results they participated in government (Catalonia, Asturias, Euskal Herria). They accommodated neoliberalism and repressed social movements in the streets. This is true of the IU (Izquierda Unida) or the United Left. The other forces to the left of the IU are incapable of arguing an anti-capitalist position which could group together those on the left who want to fight.

The biggest problem of the Spanish anti-capitalist Left is its sectarianism and inability to agree a strategy for the kind of organization that is so urgently needed.
The dominant ideas amongst those who occupied the squares in Spain are those of ‘non-political young people’ who are rejecting official politics and official political parties. Parties are seen as bureaucratic machines. However, the young activists’ songs, slogans and demands could easily fit into any left party programme.

This is the main contradiction facing the Left in Spain. There is a ‘social left’, but not a political one. As for the unions, they have only made token gestures to encourage people to join the protest. It is also true to say that emphasis on the “anti-politics”, “anti-organisation”, “anti-party” and “unions” that has been hyped up by many of the “Outraged” street protesters has not helped.

On the other hand, the 22nd May saw elections for regional and municipal governments. The right-wing, the People’s Party (PP), swept the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) aside. The PP has capitalized on discontent in the face of an economic crisis: unemployment and a lack of job-security.
The socialist PSOE did not carry out leftist policies and failed to take on the employers. When a government that forces left-wing people to vote for right-wing policies, it is committing suicide. This is what Zapatero has done. The IU has obtained reasonable results, but given the circumstances, such results are poor.

The most important lessons of neoliberalism should have been learned when neoliberalism was shown to fail. In contrast, the results of the left in the Basque Country (Euskal Herria) are exceptional: Bildu, the pro-independence Basque left organisation, has won seats in most councils in the Basque Country. The PP tried to prevent Bildu from participating in elections, claiming they had links with the paramilitary Basque nationalist group ETA. A series of mass demonstrations in favour of Euskal Herria Bildu and an appeal to the Constitutional Court enabled their participation.

The pro-independence Basque-left have spent years fighting neoliberalism, and the Basque unions (ELA and LAB) are more militant than the state-level unions (CCOO and UGT). In Euskal Herria the Left are working well and getting things right. This is not the case in the rest of Spain. That’s why we have these results.

Two things could be heard from the right-wing PP’s victory celebrations at their headquarters in Madrid: “Evict them from Sol!”, referring to the protesters; and “Get them out (ban) Bildu.”
The future in Spain is going to be tough and we need a strong political left, which does not at present exist.

Pablo Fern√°ndez is from Bilbao. He is a member of Alternatiba (, part of the left coalition Bildu (in a personal capacity).